Fibromuscular Dysplasia

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Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is a rare vascular disease that primarily affects the arteries, causing them to narrow or become twisted. This condition can lead to a variety of symptoms and complications, including high blood pressure, headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, neck pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, and even stroke. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for FMD is crucial for those affected by this condition.

Causes of Fibromuscular Dysplasia

The exact cause of fibromuscular dysplasia is still unknown. However, researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the development of this condition. Some studies suggest that hormonal imbalances, such as those seen in women during pregnancy or menopause, may play a role in the development of FMD. Additionally, certain genetic mutations have been associated with an increased risk of developing this condition.

Symptoms of Fibromuscular Dysplasia

Fibromuscular dysplasia can affect various arteries in the body, leading to a wide range of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • High blood pressure: Many individuals with FMD experience elevated blood pressure levels, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular complications.
  • Headache: Chronic headaches, often described as migraines, are a common symptom of FMD.
  • Dizziness: Feeling lightheaded or dizzy is another symptom that may occur due to reduced blood flow to the brain.
  • Ringing in the ears: Some individuals with FMD may experience a persistent ringing or buzzing sound in their ears, known as tinnitus.
  • Neck pain: Pain or discomfort in the neck area is a common symptom of FMD, especially when the carotid arteries are affected.
  • Chest pain: FMD can cause chest pain or discomfort, which may be mistaken for a heart-related condition.
  • Shortness of breath: Reduced blood flow to the lungs can lead to difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Fainting: In severe cases, FMD can cause fainting or loss of consciousness due to inadequate blood supply to the brain.
  • Stroke: The most serious complication of FMD is a stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or interrupted.

Treatment Options for Fibromuscular Dysplasia

While there is no cure for fibromuscular dysplasia, various treatment options are available to manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and the affected arteries.


Medications can be prescribed to control high blood pressure and alleviate symptoms such as headaches and dizziness. Commonly prescribed medications include ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and beta-blockers. These medications help relax the blood vessels, improve blood flow, and reduce blood pressure.

Angioplasty and Stenting

In cases where the narrowing or blockage of the arteries is severe, angioplasty and stenting may be recommended. During this procedure, a thin tube called a catheter is inserted into the affected artery. A balloon attached to the catheter is then inflated to widen the artery, and a stent is placed to keep it open. This helps restore normal blood flow and relieve symptoms.


In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to treat fibromuscular dysplasia. Surgical procedures such as bypass grafting or arterial reconstruction may be performed to bypass or repair the affected arteries. These procedures are typically reserved for severe cases or when other treatment options have failed.

Living with Fibromuscular Dysplasia

While fibromuscular dysplasia is a chronic condition, individuals can lead a fulfilling life with proper management and care. Here are some tips for living with FMD:

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help manage high blood pressure and reduce the risk of complications. This includes eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Monitor blood pressure: Regularly monitoring blood pressure levels is essential for individuals with FMD. This can be done at home using a blood pressure monitor or through regular check-ups with a healthcare provider.
  • Manage stress: Stress can worsen symptoms and increase blood pressure. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or hobbies can help manage stress levels.
  • Take medications as prescribed: It is important to take prescribed medications regularly and as directed by a healthcare provider to control blood pressure and manage symptoms effectively.
  • Stay informed: Educate yourself about fibromuscular dysplasia and its management. Stay updated on the latest research and treatment options to make informed decisions about your health.

In conclusion, fibromuscular dysplasia is a rare vascular disease that can cause a range of symptoms and complications, including high blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, and stroke. While there is no cure for FMD, various treatment options are available to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. By following a healthy lifestyle, monitoring blood pressure, and staying informed, individuals with FMD can lead a fulfilling life. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with FMD, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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